Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not an Obamagate–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corner:
When compiling this section, I found myself thinking “This is a quiet week for Disregard of Governing Norms“–and that’s on a week when our sitting President had a meltdown about churches and a fourth inspector general was fired. I guess it’s all relative by now? At any rate, here’s what is happening:
- ‘Obamagate’ Investigation. Though William Barr was quick to downplay its importance, Republican Senators are trying to subpoena several Obama-era officials. The request is extremely broad, covering everything from the Carter Page surveillance to Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine–welcome to 2020, where everything’s made up and the points of law don’t matter. They did this, by the way, at the same time that they narrowly voted in a new Director of Intelligence that even said GOP senators wouldn’t endorse in July, forcing his nomination at the time to be withdrawn. (It’s kind of hilarious to compare Rubio’s quote from July with his lukewarm vote of confidence this week.) This does, however, mean we see the retreating back of acting director and MAGA horrorshow Richard Grenell, so that’s something, but it likely has implications for the Obamagate investigation.
- Retaliatory Firing (Again Again). Speaking of investigations, the acting Transportation Department inspector general, Mitchell Behm, was removed from the role over the past week–so that makes four inspectors general removed in two months. And wouldn’t you know it, just like the State Department IG removed, Behm was looking at the conduct of his department’s head–in this case, whether Elaine Chao was improperly favoring Kentucky for project priority. (Chao is the wife of Kentucky Senator and overall nightmare man Mitch McConnell, for those of you playing the home game.) The replacement acting IG, “Skip” Elliott, works in the Transportation Department and literally reports directly to Chao, so that’s nice and normal and in no way an obvious conflict of interest.
- Trump’s Messed Up COVID-19 Response. Trump continued to publicly illustrate his obvious unfitness for office this week, visiting a Ford plant and refusing to wear a mask, then yelling at the state’s Attorney General about it on Twitter. He also refused to close down the country if there’s a second wave of COVID outbreaks on the same tour. For an encore, he threatened to “hold up” federal funds for states that expand mail-in voting–but only the Democrat-controlled ones. He also implied the official death toll is inflated, and he ended the week by throwing a tantrum about houses of worship, demanding governors reopen them regardless of COVID threat level.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Election Oddities (Again). This was another strange week for election news, between Trump’s outburst about mail-in voting and the strange circus surrounding Joe Biden’s shortlist for Vice Presidential candidates. Georgia also canceled its state election for a seat on its Supreme Court, opting to let its governor appoint someone for the next two years. And outlets are starting to voice increasing unease about how the election will even work in November if we’re still in the middle of a pandemic–which I am also wondering, so I can’t say I blame them.
- State of the COVID-19.* Remember how last week, I said that Georgia’s numbers looking more promising than Texas or Florida’s? Yeah, about that: News broke this week that they were doctoring their numbers, which apparently was intended in Florida as well (but their top data scientist refused, and was fired for her efforts.) Current national data suggest that more infections are happening in rural areas, and we are nearing 100,000 deaths at the time that I type this. Over 1.6 million cases have been reported. Given the high rate of asymptomatic infection and a country that is increasingly reopening, an effective method of contact tracing has become extremely important.
- Market Mess Continues.* The market continues to be…struggling, to put it politely. The unemployment rate isn’t really slowing, and another 2.4 million Americans filed for the first time in the past week. Experts worry that these lost jobs may not be coming back–even a White House official has expressed concern, contradicting Trump and probably becoming next week’s retaliatory firing paragraph. Despite this, Mitch McConnell wants to end unemployment supports, even as our Treasury Secretary says we need another stimulus bill. There’s growing support in Congress for paycheck subsidy, but the SBA subsidy loans are still a mess, so hopefully any new efforts will be better managed.
- Recent Court Resilience. This was another good week for court cases, for the most part! In Florida, a federal judge struck down a law that would prohibit voting for people with outstanding court fees. The court used very clear language when calling the law unconstitutional, noting that it created “a pay-to-vote system” that is reminiscent of poll taxes. And another federal judge ordered the FCC to server logs on its net neutrality public comments, which the New York Times is alleging were fraudulently filed. Progress!
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve Alexandra Petri reading Rousseau and this bewildered bear investigation and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me ethical chocolate cause I’m almost out!